I’m not just talking about Sunday’s chaotic, eventual blowout win by the Patriots in Buffalo, but also the fact that – can you believe it? – we’re already at the quarter mark of the 2012 NFL calendar!
Where is the time going?!
Anyway, on to the game.
Storm clouds were swirling around Ralph Wilson Stadium all afternoon, but they never materialized. Instead, the Patriots rained down the points on Buffalo in the second half, while the defense came up huge at crucial points, causing six turnovers and sacking Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick thrice.
But before we dissect any consequential plays, let’s take a quick time out to analyze some of New England’s offensive statistics, specifically no-huddle and shotgun formations through the first four games.
BALANCE EQUALS VICTORY
Against the Bills, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels called 76 plays: 40 runs, 36 passes. He also put quarterback
This Buffalo game was also the second time this season that the Patriots called for more ground plays than passes. In the opener against the Titans, the Patriots ran the ball 35 times and threw 31. In the loss to the Cardinals, they Patriots ran just 28 times, throwing 46; shotgun formations ballooned to 47, but surprisingly, the no-huddles stayed fairly static (19). In Baltimore, the Patriots threw 41 times and ran 34; 40 times they went no-huddle, and used 39 shotguns.
It’s also interesting to note how much more the Patriots went with two-tight-end/two-wide-receiver looks in Buffalo compared to the previous two weeks (both losses). That’s the formation that gave them so much success in the Week 1 win, so, it’s not surprise they were successful with it in Week 4.
This is not to say the Patriots can’t still win games on the arm of Tom Brady, but the fact is, when the team runs well in 2012, they win, and when the output on the ground is anemic, they lose (albeit by a grand total of three combined points).
Now, let’s revisit some big plays from Sunday in Orchard Park.
FEASTING ON TURNOVERS
As impressive as the production was on offense – two 100-yard rushers and a duo of 100-yard receivers (only the second time that’s ever been accomplished in the NFL) – let’s remember and give credit to the defense, which kept the Patriots in this ball game before the offensive deluge in the second half.
The first of New England’s four interceptions off Fitzpatrick saw the Patriots send just three rushers at him. While
New England’s first fumble recovery – a momentum changer at the end of the first half – was caused by linebacker
Spike’s next forced fumble (for which he actually received credit) came early in the 4th quarter. He took nearly an identical route to the ball carrier – Fred Jackson this time – and buried his shoulder into Jackson’s arm. The ball instantly popped out and rookie safety
McCourty came down with INT number two exactly two minutes after Spikes’ forced fumble. Covering receiver Stevie Johnson, McCourty stayed tight with him after the receiver ran a stop-and-go route. He had a half-step on McCourty, so, if Fitzpatrick had delivered a better deep ball, McCourty might not have had the opportunity he did to make an acrobatic adjustment, leaping in front of Johnson to make the interception.
The final turnover involved rookie Wilson again. Right after
Another good effort on his part to be aware of his surroundings while in coverage.
New England’s D wasn’t perfect, of course. Many of our followers on Twitter wanted to know what went wrong on the touchdowns surrendered. Well, here you go:
On that big TD to start the 2nd half, it was another case of cornerback
Chandler’s first TD, coming off a New England turnover. Hard to fault safety Patrick Chung, who was right where he needed to be.
On 2nd-and-3 from the Patriots 20, the Bills went trips-left, with Chandler in the slot closest to the o-line. At the snap, Spikes didn’t get a good bump on Chandler, then let him slip behind him as Spikes appeared to get confused about his responsibility on the play. A split-second too late, he realized it was to cover Chandler, who’d by then found a gaping hole in the middle of the field.
Brady had perhaps one of his most impressive games recently, in terms of anticipating and avoiding the rush. His touchdown toss to
It was interesting to see how rookie defensive end Chandler Jones was employed against the Bills. Not only did defensive coordinator Matt Patricia send Jones from both standing and three-point stances, he also rotated him from his customary right side to the left end at times. His ability to shed blocks, both against the run and the pass, continues to impress. He seems to use a combination of instincts and technique very well, depending on the situation. His rapid growth is allowing the coaches to be more creative with him, and that’s very encouraging.
It’s clear that
Get off his case, all right? We’re getting far too many Twitter and Ask PFW calls for the Patriots to shop for a new placekicker.
Entering the Bills game, Gostkowski was a near-perfect 9-for-10, his lone miss coming at the end of the Arizona game (after he’d hit two from plus-50 and four total). The first was from the right hash, 49 yards out. Long snapper
Had he been in the middle of the field, the kick would have been good, but from the right hash, the miscalculation was enough to ruin the kick.
Gostkowski’s second miss, from 42 yards out, may have been in part a result of overcompensating for what went wrong the first time. He was on the left hash this time, and both the snap and hold were perfect hold. The angle was a bit more favorable, but he swung too much this time and barely missed making contact with the upright, that’s how close the ball was to having a chance.
Bottom line here: Gostkowski remains one of the best in the game at the kicker position. His three misses this year have been between 40 and 50 yards, and the two in Buffalo were extremely close calls.
I’m not worried about Gostkowski. He’ll be fine.
For more reaction to last night’s game and an update from today's Patriots locker room, please visit the PFW blog. NFL.com’s Game Rewind product is used for After Further Review.